Today - May 11th - marks 40 years since the death of Bob Marley.
In honour of his legacy, Clash remembers fifteen immortal moments across the lifetime of the Rastafarian reggae superstar.
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1. Bob Marley’s original name was Nesta Robert Marley but his middle and first name were swapped around to preserve his masculinity after a comment was made that Nesta was too “girlish”. This was not the only thing which was noticeably different from his birth certificate. After Bob was born on February 6th 1945, it took his mother a while to finally get him officially registered, meaning the date on his birth certificate was incorrect, stating he was born on April 6th.
2. From the age of four it was discovered Bob Marley could read palms. When Cedella (Bob’s mother) first heard of this from relatives and neighbours she took it as a joke. But when his predictions started to come true, his mother was left in awe of her son. When Bob was a lot older and returned to Kingston, a woman asked him to read her palm - he replied: “I’m not reading no more hand: I’m singing now.”
3. In Kingston, Bob Marley was known by the natives as a “white boy” for his mixed raced origins being clearly visible in his facial skin. He maintained throughout his life that the kind of person you are is far more important than the colour of your skin. “Me don’t dip on nobody’s side. Me don’t dip on the black man’s side, not the white man’s side. Me dip on God’s side.”
4. When Bob was at school his best subject was mathematics. He didn’t stay in school for long though, and left at a young age when he managed to secure himself as an apprentice welder. After a dangerous injury in which a piece of metal flew into his eye, he decided to leave, ultimately for the whole world’s benefit.
5. The Teenagers (who would go on to be hailed as The Wailers, as we know them) were kicked off of their first tour for being preferred to the act that they were opening for.
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6. After being arrested for possession of marijuana, the singer spent a month in prison, during which time he met many prisoners that he formed strong relationships with. These prisoners motivated him to write songs with a more political message.
7. He would send hand-written letters to the people he thought needed to be inspired by his message of one love and unity. One of these was received by dub-poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who took his advice and went on to write astounding poetry and tell the Queen to shove her OBE offer.
8. The record label Tuff Gong was set up by Bob. It was named after his self-made nickname. This record label now boasts one of the largest audio recording facilities in the Caribbean and has been the chosen location of recordings from the likes of Snoop Dogg and Lauryn Hill.
9. Once he’d found success, Marley became extremely generous with this money. Having grown up in a poor family in Jamaica he knew how difficult it was to get by. He decided to put his goodwill into practice by buying houses for friends and supported many of the poor in Jamaica. He was also a bit of a lady's man - the official count is 11 children, although some dispute that.
10. To get from place to place, Bob Marley would show up in one of his two classic BMW saloon cars. He would proudly joke that the ride was made for him: Bob Marley and the Wailers.
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11. Two days after an assassination attempt, Marley agreed to play one song at the Smile Jamaica Concert at National Heroes Park in Kingston. He ended up playing a 90-minute set for the 80,000 people that showed up. Rock and roll.
12. A 1977 football injury led doctors to discover a malignant melanoma in Marley’s toe. They recommended amputation, but he refused for religious reasons. The tumour then spread, which ultimately caused his death.
13. There’s a rumour that Marley would smoke around eighteen joints a day, on the basis of his belief in its spiritual and medicinal properties. Whether true or not, this is cited most often by university students in defence of – well, everything.
14.One of Bob Marley’s protected dreadlocks sold for £2,585 at an auction back in 2013. This beat the sale of a pendant holding three 1cm strands of George Washington’s hair, which only went for £600.
15. Bob wished to spend to his final days in hometown, Jamaica. Unfortunately, on the Germany to Jamaica journey, he didn’t make it past Miami. Ever the romantic, he was buried on home turf along with a soccer ball, his Gibson Les Paul guitar, and a bud of marijuana.
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Words: Jessica Fynn
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